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Summer-Fall 2021 Mentors

Click each name to also view their LinkedIn profile.

Cynthia Tice

Founder, Lily’s Sweets

Focus Areas: Early stage strategy including sales strategy, pricing, distribution, broker management, innovation, and creative problem solving

Ideal Mentee: Early stage entrepreneur whose product is an in center store dry grocery item. I am particularly well suited for scrappy individuals who are operating with lean budgets and teams.

Meeting Structure: Casual free flowing conversation on specific topics

Biography

Cynthia Tice got her start in the natural foods industry before green juice was cool. She opened a natural foods grocery store, Center Foods, in Philadelphia in 1978, and owned and operated that store for 20 years. As supermarkets realized the staying power of natural and organic foods, Tice began consulting retailers on how to launch or build out their natural and organic offerings. She also began advising brands looking to launch natural and organic products. While working with a client who wanted to launch a natural soda, Tice became aware of the opportunity for naturally sweetened, no added sugar foods. This trend was emerging because of growing consumer sentiments to limit sugar, along with all time high levels of distrust of non-nutritive artificial sweeteners.

As a long-time user of stevia, when the ingredient was granted GRAS status in 2008, Tice began
experimenting with making chocolate with stevia to satisfy her own need for a no added sugar chocolate (her favorite food) that she could eat daily. In 2011, the recipe was perfected using not only stevia, but also the finest Fair Trade, additive-free, and Non-GMO other ingredients in order to benefit both people and planet. By 2012, Lily’s Sweets was on shelves in Whole Foods stores nationwide. Today, Lily’s Sweets remains a leader in the no added sugar movement through continued innovation, and the company’s chocolates and confections can be found in more than 24,000 stores nationwide. Lily’s Sweets has been recognized by Forbes as a, “mission-driven company reinventing the packaged food industry.”

Cynthia stepped away from the daily running of Lily’s in 2018, and spends her time working with Non-Profits, and mentoring young entrepreneurs. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Dennis, of 30+ years, near her parents, her children, and their spouses/partners, and four family dogs!

Shelley Sapsin

Director, MarketReady Insights – New Hope Network/Informa

Focus Areas: Regulatory, labeling, marketing, digital/e-commerce, virtual & live events, resources to thrive

Ideal Mentee: Individuals eager to learn how to launch and operate a compliant business, find the right resources to grow faster, and actually make it happen by working step-by-step, and staying accountable with fun, like-minded entrepreneurs. Appropriate for food, dietary supplement or cosmetic businesses and especially those with an interest in Natural Products Expo!

Meeting Structure: Structured, mini-workshops and action items between sessions

Biography

Shelley Sapsin is the Director of MarketReady Insights, Informa’s in-house regulatory consulting service that provides health and nutrition businesses with regulatory guidance as they enter markets. She works closely with exhibitors at Natural Products Expo, SupplySide and other Informa events.


Melanie Breitner

Director of Business Development, PROVA

Focus Areas: Solutions relating to operations, product innovation, product development, scaling formulations, and co-manufacturers

Ideal Mentee: Small and emerging brands, entrepreneurs. Brands in the innovative space.

Meeting Structure: I tend to be more casual based on the needs of the group or individuals.

Biography

Melanie Breitner is currently the Director of Business Development for PROVA, a leading company in the extraction of Vanilla, Cocoa and Coffee as well as Sweet Brown Flavors. With nearly 40 years of experience in the food industry from bench top to commercialization, Melanie spends her time working with incubator, accelerators and young emerging brand to help them bring their vision of a product to the supermarket shelf.


Jane Miller

CEO of Lily’s Sweets

Focus Areas: Leadership, developing a business plan

Ideal Mentee: Someone with intellectual curiosity, strong work ethic and passion.

Meeting Structure: Will depend on the needs of the mentee. I am flexible.

Biography

Jane Miller has 35+-years of executive experience in the food industry. She has worked with both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. She is also the founder of Janeknows.com, a career advice website geared towards young leaders starting their careers. Jane is the author of Sleep your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success), a sassy business book targeted at Millennials.

Jane is currently the CEO of Lily’s Sweets and has held several other CEO roles in the natural and organic industry, including Rudi’s Bakery, ProYo High Protein Ice Cream, and HannahMax Cookie Chips.

Over the course of her career Jane was part of an executive team that brought Hostess out of bankruptcy, worked for HJ Heinz as the Chief Growth Officer and then the President of the UK & Ireland Division. She also ran the Western division of Bestfoods Baking. Jane spent the first fourteen years of her career at PepsiCo, where she rose to be the President of the Central division of Frito-Lay.

Jane currently serves as a board member at the University of Colorado Leeds Business School, Watson Institute and Eldorado Springs Artesian Water.

Jane has a degree in Russian Studies from Knox College in Galesburg, IL and earned her MBA degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.


Leah Haney

Senior Recruiter, Creative Alignments

Focus Areas: Resumes and interviewing, salary negotiations – especially women and underrepresented communities

Ideal Mentee: New grads starting their careers, especially women. Anyone excited about the industry and serious about their job search.

Meeting Structure: General agenda and weekly themes plus time for casual questions and conversation.

Biography

Leah is a Senior Recruiter specializing in natural and better-for-you CPG companies.


Jeni Lamb Rogers

Partner, PSL Law Group LLC

Focus Areas: Building a strong foundation for compliant, meaningful marketing and food safety

Ideal Mentee: Enthusiastic and early stage entrepreneur with a food, beauty/topical, and/or CBD product that is looking to transition to co-packing and actively working on developing/perfecting labels and marketing campaigns and is committed to marketing a safe and sustainable product. My ideal mentee is someone who cares deeply about their product, their consumer, and wants to make a difference doing what they love. I also want to mentor folks who want to build friendships with other entrepreneurs and professionals, want to cheer each other on, and are willing to show up and share their (real) stories.

Meeting Structure: I’d like to do a get to know you session, and then a few structured legal basics programming sessions with a moderated discussion, 1 session on co-packing, 1 session on labeling, 1 session on social media/advertising/influencers, and reflection and sharing

Biography

I am dedicated to creating a safer and more sustainable food & agricultural system by providing quality and accessible legal counsel to farmers, food and dietary supplement manufacturers, and trade associations.

In my practice, I partner with companies positioned throughout the agriculture value chain to build compliance programs for the safety and labeling of their products, prepare for FDA inspections, and to enter into commercial contracts that align with their business values. As a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual, I have written food safety plans for a variety of products and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for foods and supplements. As a Produce Safety Alliance Trainer, I also train growers on the Produce Safety Rule.

I previously practiced with food and beverage teams at two national law firms. I have guided clients through recalls, participated in national teams for food-borne illness-related litigation, diffused consumer fraud demands related to labeling claims, educated companies on regulatory risks in acquiring and investing in emerging food brands, and helped small brands prepare for investment.

Before becoming a food lawyer, I worked in the public sector in food and agriculture. I started my career on the Hill with US House and Senate Agriculture Committees, covering hearings that led to the development of the Food Safety Modernization Act and tracking international trade issues. I also started a non-profit soy processing business in Western Kenya, researched how conservation agriculture could improve food security on USAID-funded projects in Lesotho, Kenya, and Uganda, and helped farmers manage risk while practicing food safety while working for a non-profit food hub in Southwest Virginia.


Megan Jansen

VP Sales, Weller

Focus Area: Sales

Ideal Mentee: I would love to be positive influence in someone career. I’m looking for passion mixed in with fun. As Steven Spielberg says.. The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.

Meeting Structure: Casual – guest speakers, channel strategy and pricing

Biography

Experienced Vice President Sales with a demonstrated history of working in the consumer goods industry. Strong sales professional skilled in Customer Insight, Market Research, Online Advertising, Sales, and Marketing Strategy.


Bob Burke

Principal, Natural Products Consulting

Focus Areas: Growth strategy, go to market, raising capital, unit economics, business planning, sales, marketing, distribution, building out a team, service providers

Ideal Mentee: Good listener, coachable, curious, willing to put in the work, prefer someone who is on the market and growing rapidly vs someone at concept stage.

Meeting Structure: Really a mix of the above – clarify objectives, understand resources available, always have an agenda but allow for free flowing discussion and guest speakers where applicable.

Biography

As a consultant since 1998, Bob Burke provides assistance in bringing natural, organic and specialty products to market across most classes of trade. This includes work in growth strategies, sales modeling, pricing, building distribution, broker selection and management, organizational development, financing, branding, trade spending and assistance around M&A, diligence and go-to-market plans for international companies entering the US market. He is also the co-author of the Natural Products Field Manual, Ninth Edition. Prior to consulting, Bob was with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for 11 years as Vice President, Sales & Corporate Development. He received an MBA from Babson College. www.NaturalConsulting.com


Douglas Brown

Founder, Campfire Content

Focus Areas: As a lifelong professional writer, with decades of experience in newsrooms and running PR and content shops, I think I bring immense value to mentees seeking help with storytelling. It’s vital. Few startups, not to mention established companies, understand their stories, how to properly unearth and tell them, and how to broadcast them.

Ideal Mentee: Somebody with grit. Somebody who takes chances. A person incandescent with curiosity who does not shrink from trying new things, from heading in novel directions, from yawning at those toiling to set her off on safe, snug, well-worn paths.

Meeting Structure: I would think the monthly meetings would be collaborative, in terms of their structure. However, I would anticipate lots of free-flowing conversations. Moderate discussions make sense, too. Given my interest – storytelling – some homework would be helpful. I’d like to help teach people how to craft their powerful stories.

Biography

I spent more than 23 years in daily newspaper and magazine newsrooms, covering everything from the White House and Capitol Hill for six years to food, agriculture and … sex … across the Rocky Mountain West for a decade. Since 2013 I have founded and managed PR firms. Campfire Content focuses on sustainable companies, people and efforts. We engage in content marketing and public relations.


Betsy McGinn

Founder/CEO, McGinn eComm

Focus Areas: eCommerce and Omnichannel Strategy

Ideal Mentee: Creative entrepreneurs that have ideas that they want advice on and validation around, brands trying to figure out eCommerce, brands that are innovative and have the potential to break out of the pack with the right strategic help.

Meeting Structure: Varied, based on the needs of the mentees. I think we can mix it up in terms of the structure – having a specific agenda based on pre-submitted questions/topics, speakers where appropriate, check-in sessions. One-on-One sessions based on particular needs.

Biography

Betsy is the co-author of The Amazon Roadmap: How Innovative Brands are Reinventing the Path to Market, the quintessential start-to-finish guide for brands who want to launch, recalibrate, or optimize their Amazon business and ensure continued growth on this powerful platform.

As Seventh Generation’s first eCommerce channel director, Betsy pioneered the company’s innovative eComm strategy and created a thriving multimillion-dollar partnership with Amazon and other key online retailers.

Since founding McGinn eComm in 2014, Betsy has worked with hundreds of natural and specialty brands to establish and strengthen their strategic direction on Amazon and their own Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce. From product development and profitability analysis to guiding organizational change, McGinn eComm leads clients through every step of this complex channel, helping to ensure successful and profitable online businesses.

With more than a decade of eCommerce experience, Betsy is a thought-leader and regular speaker at workshops and conferences globally.


John Canter

Principal, AVL Growth Partners

Focus Areas: Scaling up, Fundraising

Ideal Mentee: Seed stage looking to scale and raise funding.

Meeting Structure: Agenda.

Biography

My hands-on leadership experience spans roles in Operations, Finance, FP&A, and Investor Relations with documented success across private and public companies ranging in revenue of $2M-$425M across SaaS, DTC, B2B, and B2C business models.

Loree Mulay Weisman

President/CEO, Mulay’s Sausage Corp.

Focus Areas: Importance of a strategic plan, Understanding the pitfalls, Resilience, networking

Ideal Mentee: Start ups with consumer good items that have already gone through proof of concept and are ready to or just have entered the marketplace.

Meeting Structure: I will design a 6th month program focused on 6 key topics surrounding 1-Business planning (depending on stage of business), 2-Leadership & Communication, 3- Supply Chain 4 -Planning for the unknown – what to watch out for, 5-Marketing and Sales 6-Memberships, certifications . I will bring in expert speakers and/or their materials to facility an educational platform for learning. I will incorporate peer group discussions and include research homework.

Biography

Loree Mulay Weisman is Mulay’s Sausage Corporation’s accomplished Founding President and CEO. Heading up this WBENC Certified Woman Owned Business, her expertise lies in sales, marketing, R&D, strategic planning and development. She is the corporate visionary opening new channels and exploring growth opportunities for the company. Loree has grown Mulay’s with a critical eye for quality, leading the competition with innovation and certifications, always ahead of trends, guiding with a tradition of excellence for over 30 years.